Baptist21 is excited to once again host a lunch panel at this year’s SBC in Columbus, Ohio. Our panelists will be discussing the most pressing issues facing the church and cooperative missions.
Registration will start soon
The Babylonians and the Romans made annual promises to their gods. Apparently, some Medieval knights took an annual “peacock vow” to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry. And each year around this time we do our 21st century version of this old practice.
So as you consider all the weight you want to lose, the debt you want to pay down, and the bible reading plans you want to dominate in 2015, I’d like to point your attention to three keys to a great 2015.
I went to my first Nashville Predators game the other day. And as much as I’d like to say otherwise, it was awesome. While you still couldn’t pay me to watch it at home, I’d pay to go to another game. Unlike football games, the action is non-stop. But like football games—and just about every other sport—the goal of hockey is immediately obvious to anyone in the building.
And as nice as it would be if this were the case in life, it’s not. The goal of life isn’t immediately obvious. The main goal that should direct all our tertiary goals in 2015 isn’t immediately evident.
Should fame be our goal? Happiness? Power? Family? Health? A lot of money? Companies in our culture spend hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to shape the answer you give to this question. The right goal of life isn’t clear.
That’s why the answer that Jesus gave to a group of Middle Eastern Bible scholars in the 1st century was so stunning. When Jesus was asked which biblical command out of the hundreds of commands was the greatest, without blinking, he said that it was loving the Lord with all of your being (Matt 22:36-37).
This means that all of those biblical commands to “do this,” “feel that,” “don’t do that,” and “believe this” should be motivated by a love for the Lord. The main goal of your life is to love Jesus as Lord.
Is that your goal? Are you focused on this goal? Your answer to this question isn’t some irrelevant “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin needle” type of answer. Everything’s at stake. Because if you miss the goal of your life, you’ll lose at the game of life. And that’s a loss column you don’t want to be in.
This past Fall, my daughter played what can loosely be defined as soccer. And every once and a while a girl would score on the wrong goal. Each time this happened, the cute kid was so proud, so confident, walked to their parents with such a sense of accomplishment. The kid felt so right, but was sooo wrong. But we all couldn’t help but smile with her.
It’s cute when this kind of thing happens to kids at soccer games. It’s gut-wrenching to see someone focus on the wrong goal with their life. Don’t miss the goal of your life that was given to you by the Creator of your life. Growing and expressing your love of Jesus is the right goal to focus on in 2015.
But you can’t just pursue the right goal of your life. You need to understand the greatest challenge to your goal. Godly intentions don’t equal godly results. If you try to pursue the right goal of your life without understanding the greatest challenge, you’ll miss it. And if you want to understand your greatest challenge, look no further than the Pharisees.
Do you think that Pharisees set out to be the bad guys of Scripture? Do you think that Pharisees memorized tons of Scripture so they could better oppose its Author? I don’t. But that’s what happened (Matt. 22:34-35). Their godly intentions didn’t equal godly results. Why? There is a subtle, deep sickness that marks humanity—sin—that derails the best of intentions.
This past Christmas we were so looking forward to time on my in-law’s farm. They have about a 100 acres on which to hunt, 4-wheel, feed chickens, and more. Plus, all of the cousins would be there. We were pumped.
And then one of the kids got the flu and derailed all the plans. By the time my sick kid and I got home from the doctor, everybody’s vans were packed and ready to go. I’ve never seen that group of people move that fast. Certain types of sickness can derail the best of plans.
That’s what happened to the Pharisees. And that’s the story of every person’s life. We aspire for noble things, but our best plans get derailed by a nasty sickness. Far worse than any mutating flu virus, sin infects all of our being—ruining our best intended plans.
Even if your final result is better than the Pharisees and your able to “move mountains” with your faith, if you don’t have love, you have nothing (1 Cor. 13:2). Understand your greatest challenge—your subtle, sin sickness.
3. CLING TO THE GOSPEL
When you set your sights on the right goal and you understand your greatest challenge, you’ll inevitably experience great despair—unless you believe the gospel. The good news of the gospel isn’t that Jesus came to command loving people to love more the next year. It’s not that Jesus came to command unloving people to love. It’s that Jesus loved us by living the perfectly loving life we wish we could live in 2015, and died the sinner’s death we should have died for our 2014, and was raised from the dead, defeating sin, death, and the devil. We receive the benefits of his loving work by repenting of our unloving, sinful ways, and trusting him as our Savior, Treasure, and Lord. And when we receive Him in this way, we receive His Spirit who empowers us to love in 2015 and beyond (Gal 5). The Spirit of God determines the right goal of the people of God. And when this happens, the love of the Lord becomes our goal with all of life for all of life in 2015.
Have you ever thought it would be better to have lived during the time of Jesus? To have walked with him? To have seen him heal many people or feed the 5,000? As our hearts may long to have walked with Jesus many years ago, J. D. Greear reminds us that Jesus has a different, better plan for us. In his newest book, Jesus, Continued: Why the Spirit Inside You is Better than Jesus Beside You, Greear argues from the Scripture that it is better to have the Holy Spirit in us rather than Jesus beside us. He challenges his readers to know the Holy Spirit personally and to participate in mission in this world.
In Part One, Greear exposes the lie that it would be better to have Jesus beside us now. Really. Yes, the Christian faith unquestionably relies on the person and work of Jesus. Yet, Jesus himself told us that it is better for the Holy Spirit to come. Greear reminds us, “Jesus claimed that having the Holy Spirit in [his disciples] would be better than having him beside them” (25). Tracing this instruction from Jesus, Greear emphasizes our responsibility as believers to walk in the Spirit. To walk in the Spirit is to know the Word because we cannot know the Holy Spirit apart from the Word. The Spirit speaks through the Word, and we know the Spirit by the Word. He rightly claims, “While pursuing one without the other leads to spiritual ruin, pursuing one in the other leads to power and life” (29). In the remainder of Part One, Greear shows how God’s Word and the Spirit work together. To do so, he explores such themes as mystery in the Holy Spirit and clarity in the Word, the power of the Holy Spirit in carrying out the mission of God, and the promise of greater works in the power of the Spirit. Yet, he also calls to our mind a sobering truth: God doesn’t need us. He can accomplish his purposes without us. Yet, in his grace, he chooses to use us to be fishers of men. This grace serves as our motivation to proclaim the gospel to all peoples.
In Part Two, Greear explores what it means to experience the Holy Spirit, providing six defining characteristics. First, knowing and experiencing the Holy Spirit begins with the Gospel. As one grows deeper into the truth of the gospel, a glorious result is receiving further direction and understanding from the Holy Spirit in living for the glory of God. Second, knowing and experiencing the Holy Spirit continues in the Word of God. The Scripture is our most reliable guide for knowing the will of God, and we are guided by the Spirit to rightly understand his Word. Third, knowing and experiencing the Holy Spirit continues in our giftings. Greear argues that you cannot fully walk in the Spirit unless you are familiar with and are using the gifts he has given you. The Spirit has empowered us in specific ways for his mission. Fourth, knowing and experiencing the Holy Spirit continues in the church. This comes primarily through preaching and words of wisdom and knowledge. Fifth, knowing and experiencing the Holy Spirit continues in our spirit. God works in our affections, convictions, desires, and minds to move us to obedience and to actively participate in his mission. Sixth, knowing and experiencing the Holy Spirit continues in our circumstances. Our experiences can lead us into all kinds of conclusions, but we must use the other means of knowing the Spirit to rightly understand our experiences.
In Part Three, Greear offers direction in pursuing the Holy Spirit. At times, we may feel as if God is silent. This doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong. Greear encourages us to look to the Scripture and remember that silence is a way in which God works in our lives. We must remember to walk in faith! This is key to pursuing revival from God. Revival is not found in some innovative technique. Rather, it is grounded in the proclamation of the gospel, prayer, repentance, and yearning for the Spirit. Greear calls for us to pray. We have been given the Holy Spirit. Now, we need to ask him to move mightily among us. This only happens through “persistent, faith-filled prayer” (206). In concluding the book, he offers another reflection on the gospel. He points to the overwhelming theme in the Scripture: the Spirit is given to us for purposes of the gospel. As such, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to accomplish his mission through us!
Overall, Jesus, Continued promises to be a fruitful tool in the life of the church. The pages are filled with Scripture, and his instruction is much like his sermons and other books—challenging, humorous, encouraging, corrective, and motivating. As a pastor-theologian, Greear does not simply offer a “twelve-steps” solution to experiencing the Holy Spirit. It is theologically driven and biblically grounded. In a time when the Christians need great wisdom and instruction from the Lord due to the changing circumstances in America and across the world, this book will serve the church well in understanding and knowing the Holy Spirit.
About the Author:
J.D. Greear serves as pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina. He has a Ph.D. in systematic theology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and he is the author of Breaking the Islam Code: Understanding the Soul Questions of Every Muslim (Harvest House 2010), Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary (B&H 2011), and Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How to Know for Sure You Are Saved (B&H 2013).
B21 is thankful for the ministry of our friend Tony Merida and want to give you a heads up about his newest book set to release in January. Check out below how to pre-order a copy.
Well, the ordinary cat is out of the bag.
In January 2015, my new book, Ordinary: How to Turn the World Upside Down, will be released. I hope to encourage ordinary people like you to do the ordinary things with gospel intentionality for the good of a broken world.
In Acts 17, we see a picture of obedient followers of Jesus who were described by city officials as those who “turned the world upside down.”
To turn the world upside down, you don’t have to be a megachurch pastor, or have an impressive platform. You simply need to live on mission – in word and deed – within the ordinary rhythm of life. We need millions of ordinary, genuine followers of Jesus to live with gospel intentionality daily, not 20 more conference speakers.
This kind of life might not seem spectacular or sensational in the eyes of some, but from a Kingdom perspective, it truly is extraordinary.
The book will be available nationwide on January 1st, 2015. You can pre-order a copy today through one of the retailers below (or check with your favorite retailer):
Everyone is not called to live in a mud-hut in India. Some are. We should celebrate and support those that are. But what about the rest of us? What should we do? I hope that this book will help see the significance of the ordinary, mundane, and trivial. God really does use ordinary people like us.
In August, Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old, was shot and killed by Darren Wilson, a white policeman, in Ferguson, Missouri. Tonight, we learned that the grand jury decided not to indict Wilson on any charges related to the event.
In the months since the shooting, the world has watched closely to see how America faces its racial issues. We may wish we lived in a post-white/post-black world, but recent events affirm that we do not.
While we may never know all the details of what went down in Ferguson, we do know that black Christians and white Christians interpret these types of situations very differently. According to a recent CNN poll, “Fifty-four percent of nonwhites––including blacks, Latinos and Asians––say Wilson should be charged with murder, while just 23 percent of whites agree.”
So inside the church and outside the church, it appears that black people (and other minorities) and white people see events like the tragedy in Ferguson from totally different perspectives.
As a pastor of an intentionally multiethnic, multiclass church, I believe Jesus’ church can bring healing to the deep wounds in our country by being a testimony of how the cross and blood of Jesus can bring about reconciliation and justice.
What if black and white Christians, as well as other minorities, were members of multiethnic churches instead of segregated ones? Nearly 90 percent of churches in America are homogenous, meaning one ethnic group makes up more than 80 percent of the church. Sometimes geographic demographics cause this, but often it is a choice we make to remain segregated as Christians. For example, churches are 10 times more segregated than the neighborhoods they are in and 20 times more segregated than the schools that are near them.
If we worshiped side-by-side in the body of Christ, could we address racism, oppression, and injustice together? We could move towards being one (John 17:21, 23).
If we worshiped side-by-side in the body of Christ, could we address racism, oppression, and injustice together?
In the first century, the churches the apostle Paul planted had their own version of ethnic strife. In Christ, former enemies became co-worshipers in the same multiethnic local churches.
What if black and white Christians shared life with each other in a local church community and heard each other’s stories and walked in each other’s shoes?
“For Christ Himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in His own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in Himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of His death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death” (Eph. 2:14–16, NLT).
This reconciliation is not just for first-century Jews and Gentiles. It is for all humanity. The reason the church is segregated is that we don’t believe deeply enough in the power of the cross. It seems to me that Christians seem to not really believe that the cross of Christ has anything to do with racism and injustice.
But the gospel-reality is that “Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of His death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death” (Eph. 2:16, NLT)
Put. To. Death.
Be an Ambassador
Do you wake in the morning with a sense of urgency every day? I hope you do. As the firestorm in Ferguson reveals, the stakes are high. Listen to Romans 5:10–11, ESV,
“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
Outside of association and allegiance to Jesus, humanity is an enemy of God. This is why ambassadors of Jesus wake knowing deeply that our time, talents, and treasure are to be leveraged so that God’s enemies can be reconciled to him through Jesus. Reconciliation means that through Jesus, enemies of God become friends of God. It also means that in Christ we are unified into one body, a new man (Eph. 2:15).
When you signed up to follow Jesus, he gave you the ministry of reconciliation. Your life is a bridge over which people walk from death to life.
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us” (2 Cor. 5:18–21, ESV).
God has entrusted you and me, his church, with the message of reconciliation. Are you giving that message away? God pleads with people to become his friends through our lives.
Are we only sharing that message with people who look like us or have the same socioeconomic status we do?
There is a hurting world that needs to know Jesus became what God hates most––sin––so that they could become what he loves most––his children. When we sit in segregated churches we loudly proclaim that we love some of his children more than we love others.
For all eternity, followers of Jesus will enjoy Jesus and each other. But we will not share the message of reconciliation. There will be no need to. But there is a need today! That’s why Jesus left us here as his ambassadors to announce that the kingdom of God has come and that salvation belongs to our God.
So are we just going to scream “Racism” and “Injustice” from behind our segregated church walls, or are we going to start building multiethnic communities that embody what God’s desire is for the world to be.
I’m thankful for the courageous local churches in Ferguson who are calling for peace and reconciliation.
Church, this is a pivotal time in history. Will we rise to the occasion?